Tuesday, January 11, 2022

A Dearth Of Ownership II

 One thing that I think I can be legitimately accused of is that while I have some ability (debatable as to what level, I suppose) of being able to point out a problem or issue, I am not very good at pointing out solutions.  Or at least practical, applicable solutions.  It is one thing to say "The system (name your system) needs to be fixed".  It is another thing to say "This is what I can do to fix the system".

And so with the question of ownership of policies and issues.  It is not enough for me to complain that there is an issue and we are living through the results of this, which I argue we are.  I need to propose and practice a solution.

Unfortunately, I am rather bad at starting mass movements and any potential political career is not going to happen due to the fact that, were I actually to run, I would manage to offend everyone by my opinions as I really belong to no party or movement and thus am equally offensive to all parties and movements.

The only way I know to do things is start with me and be an example.

So how does one go about promoting Ownership of issues?

An important point to clarify, at least in my own mind, is the difference between ownership and accountability.  Ownership is internally generated:  I choose or am made responsible for a thing.  Accountability is externally generated:  Others hold me to complete, do, or stay within the bounds of the thing.  I can certainly choose to be accountable for things I do not own, even as I can own things which I am arguably not accountable for because I have no ability to complete them.  But for the purposes of this solution, I am discussing only ownership: my responsibility to see a thing through to completion and be responsible for the results.

Oddly enough, I already practice this in small ways with swords and rabbits.

For my swords - the shinken, or live blades with edges - I am 100% responsible for them.  Not only for the location of them and management of them, but the care of them.  If any rust appears on the blade (it can happen), it happened because I failed to clean it properly.  I own the blade, therefore I own the rust.

With our rabbits, they are 100% mine.  I am responsible for making sure they get fed, watered, changed, interacted with, and exercised.  If I do not do it, it will not get done to the level that I would expect of myself (and the rabbits prefer, rabbits being rather focused on themselves, of course).

Certainly there are circumstances where another Iaidoka may use my blade or I am gone and my family takes over caring for the rabbits.  But those interruptions do not change the fact that ultimately, I own the responsibility for the outcome (even if I am not physically there).

Fair enough.  But these things - shinken, rabbits - are personal things.  How do I push the envelope to include an example which will be more publicly an example?  The only solution, I suppose, is do things more publicly.

This can be small, I suppose - selecting a piece of roadway to keep clean or choosing some portion of a group or activity to be responsible for, like always making sure the dojo is clean or coffee things put away or a host of other seemingly small items.  If something is out of place, I make it my responsibility to make it right.

I am sure that from there, of course, the argument could be made that from such small seedlings, great movements could start:  larger people could take ownership of larger pieces of road or stewarding larger pieces of land or being responsible for making sure that charity cases do not remain charity cases by helping them to succeed in society.  Those are certainly worthy goals; I will leave them to those with the organizational abilities and social interaction abilities to make them happen.  

My job - my only job in this case - is to be a part of the solution by being an example, even if a small one. In that sense, I am owning both the small issue I am dealing with and the larger one around us.

That does not mean the larger one gets solved, of course.  But I can at least rest easy knowing that rather than just complaining (again), I have both proposed and enacted a resolution.

Which may, I suppose, looks a lot like ownership.


  1. I think that is the key. But like you noted, it takes everyone to grab a handful and be responsible owners for there to be a large change. Back when responisibility was taught, ownership was a reflex. Now that everyone is a winner and important, I figure folks see themselves as too important to get dirty. Maybe they are just "above" that.

    Humility plays into this. If you are too important to demean yourself with common activities, then responsibilty impossible. Thank God, I was taught there isn't a job beneath me. And that honest work is virtuous.

    When we had little kids, and took them out to a cafe, my wife and I always cleaned up around them and stacked dishes. We always got smiles from the wait staff for that. Just because we were eating out, didn't mean we weren't responsble for messes. It weaves it's way through your life if you let it.

    Good subject. Made me think today!

    1. I was taught the same STxAR - there is no job beneath me except the job I refuse to do.

      The "above the job" is not just here anymore. Our guide in Costa Rica noted that the agricultural labor there has moved from Costa Rican to Nicaraguan because agriculture is now beneath the current generation.

      Responsibility, as you say, is key.

  2. My solution to a lot of these sorts of problems always starts back home with parenting the next generation. Parents need to teach their kids to own their problems, no matter how embarrassing it might feel. From what I see, too many parents brush off failures as someone else's fault such as, "that test was just too hard Johnny" or "the coach obviously was playing favorites when Johnny didn't make the team". Those kids grow up to do the same things with their kids and at their careers.

    I honestly believe half of the world's problems would probably go away in one generation if we just pushed ourselves to parent our kids instead of letting social media and electronics do the job for us.

    1. Ed, in agreement. I have seen in my own relationships the concept of "it was not your fault". Adults are just as much to blame for the situation we are in. I wonder: we are almost two generations into this culture at this point and so maybe this whole thing is both much more basic and much more difficult than anticipated: A complete and total redo on what parenting (and ownership) means.

  3. There’s different kinds of ownership aren’t there?

    That, to me, is so much of why “taking ownership” is just a meaningless corporate buzz phrase. Keeping the coffee area clean is one thing…but as Ed points out, ownership gets complicated very fast. The teachers in the public schools point fingers at the parents. The parents point it back and the kids fall through the cracks in droves.

    You’d have to have a conversation about what ownership means to you and vice versa. It’s one conversation for cleaning up the coffee and quite another when talking about raising and educating children.

    1. There are different conversations Glen, but I suspect the underlying principle would be the same: I own (or am responsible, I suppose) for the results. To Ed's point, perhaps we have one to generations that this is not the case. If so, then there need to be examples out there. That much, at least, I can do.


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